Thanks to a number of local businesses, 833 kids from Chilliwack to Boston Bar will have warm feet this winter.
The biannual Boots For Kids campaign, put on by Murray Honda and Canadian Tire, provides kids in need with winter boots and shoes. The initiative is one half of Project Warmth, an annual fundraiser that provides winter footwear to children one year, and coats the next year. Last year they handed out 700 winter coats as part of their Coats For Kids project.
“In the last seven years we’ve been able to contribute, as a team, over $600,000 worth of boots, coats and school supplies,” says organizer Justin Mallard of Murray Honda.
They average about 500 kids each year, but last year that ballooned by about 50 per cent when they decided to add school district 78 (Cascade) which includes Agassiz, Harrison, Hope and Boston Bar.
Project Warmth began in 2012. Each year, the schools send in their requests for new footwear (or coats) in December. But Canadian Tire general manager, John Boris, and store manager, Karen Baumeister, are already ahead of the game by that point.
They shop early for the boots, starting around September to get the best deals. Canadian Tire buys about 85-90 per cent of the footwear while SportChek helps fill in the gap.
“We try to do a year-round, insulted, waterproof shoe/boot,” says Boris.
“John works really hard to get good quality stuff. We get a really good mix of different types — everything from running shoes to hikers to winter boots to rubber boots,” says Mallard.
Nike, Under Armour and New Balance are some of the brands they hand out. This year, there are even some boots that light up.
They like to pick a wide variety so the kids whose parents cannot afford new boots don’t get singled out. The organizers don’t want to make it obvious which children received new boots.
“You hear these stories about little kids walking around with duct-taped shoes. We hear that every single year,” says Mallard. “It’s just heartbreaking to think that these youngsters are having to deal with things out of their control, and also it puts an emotional burden on their parents.”
Boris recalls what one principal told him last year when they were handing out coats: “He broke down crying. He said ‘you guys have no idea. You don’t see the kids every day that come into school that are cold and wet, and there’s nothing we can do about it.’”
But local businesses and individuals can do something.
Canadian Tire and Murray Honda rely on their sponsors and cash donations every year to make Project Warmth a success. This year, there are 31 business sponsors who’ve helped in purchasing the boots.
Though Canadian Tire does get a heavy discount when Boris and Baumeister purchase the footwear, each pair of boots costs an average of $35.
The boots and shoes were sorted into bins Monday and are being delivered this week to children from Chilliwack to Boston Bar.
Additionally, three local fibre artists helped as well. Gaye Bailey and Sherry Welch hand knit and crocheted 700 toques to Project Warmth, while another woman knit about 30 toques with matching scarves. They will be delivered to the schools along with the boots.
Those wanting to help contribute to Boots For Kids still can. Canadian Tire will continue to collect cash donations at its check-out tills up until Dec. 31.